Away is a multi-award-winning animation, single-handedly created by Latvian filmmaker and animator Gints Zilbalodis on a shoestring budget. It has earned a 100% fresh rating on review-aggregation website rotten tomatoes and, in what now appears to be something of a regular occurrence for me, it turned out to be yet another movie that I absolutely loved but, I am ashamed to say, had never even heard of beforehand.
The plot of Away is a very modest one. Opening with a young man who is currently suspended by his parachute from a lone tree that stands in a vast, desolate landscape, we see a tall dark spirit-like figure slowly approaching him. The spirit begins to wrap itself around the boy, but as we discover later on in the movie, it’s not a nice big hug that the monster is trying to administer when he does this. Breaking free of its hold, the boy runs, with the spirit in slow pursuit, until he arrives at the entrance to a beautiful forest oasis. The spirit remains standing at the opening, either unwilling or unable to enter, allowing the boy time for some much-needed rest and recovery. He drinks from the river, eats the fruit from the trees, swims and even makes friends with a small bird, all the while taking in the beautiful scenery.
The boy discovers an abandoned motorcycle and a backpack containing a map of the large island he now finds himself on, along with a compass, a water bottle and keys to the motorcycle. Spotting what looks like some kind of harbour at the other side of the island, the boy sets off on the bike, past the tall spirit and off on the long journey through ever-changing and breathtaking landscapes in order to reach his destination and discover what awaits him. The dark spirit immediately resumes his slow pursuit, lumbering slowly after the boy with cold determination, like some kind of Terminator.
What follows can only be described as a series of scenes that are just pure animated, zen-like bliss. Not a single word is spoken throughout Away, leaving the beautiful visuals and meditative music to do all of the work and reminding me of The Red Turtle, another wonderful movie which both surprised and entertained me. Director, writer, producer, animator and film score creator Gints Zilbalodis worked on Away for three and a half years, writing the story, creating the beautifully animated landscapes and characters, and composing and recording the enchanting music. There are occasional moments of tension and peril, but other than that I haven’t felt so calm and relaxed by a movie in a very long time.
Along the way, we learn of the plane crash which resulted in the boy finding himself alone on the island. But is he in some kind of Lost style island purgatory? And what’s the deal with his mysterious pursuer? What awaits him on the other side of the island? Well, while the storyline might be a little lacking in places, and may struggle to hold the interest of some, it really didn’t matter to me when it was all presented as simply and beautifully as this.
AWAY is available to pre-order now from Apple TV and iTunes. It can be purchased from Sky Store, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Rakuten and Sony from January 18th, as well as Curzon Home Cinema from 25th January